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The importance of sport in developing a spiritual life: the John Paul II way!

The late Pope John Paul II was known for his love of sport as a means of building spiritual character through excellence in sporting skills and fitness, discipline and self-sacrifice.Image

In his life and teachings, Pope John Paul II showed that he believed in sport not as an end in itself, giving rise to the danger of becoming a vain and harmful idol, but as an instrument given by God for the spiritual and comprehensive development of the person: “Every sport, at both the amateur and the competitive level, requires basic human qualities such as rigorous preparation, continual training, awareness of one’s personal limits, fair play, acceptance of rules, respect for one’s opponent and a sense of solidarity and unselfishness”.

Throughout his youth he was passionate about many sports including football, mountaineering, skiing and swimming. It is recorded that, when he was at school in Poland, during football matches between Jewish and Catholic groups he would often volunteer to play in goal for the Jewish team. During his papacy he continued to run, climb and swim in private until ill health overtook his physical abilities.

John Paul II’s greeting to those taking part in the European Games for the Blind in 1985 sums up the inspiration of all disability sport, right through to the elite level of the Paralympics. “Your sporting activities are a sign of your great human capabilities. You do not allow yourselves to be overcome by difficulties. You are determined to overcome them. In this you show great gifts of mind and will.”

Pope John Paul ll’s legacy includes the John Paul 2 Foundation 4 Sport. This was launched by Pope Benedict XVl during his visit to Britain in 2010. The new Catholic charity has since October 2012 been promoting sport as a catalyst and conduit to enable all people to embrace a greater vision of, and higher values for, themselves and those around them.

In fact it is fair to say that John Paul 2 Foundation 4 Sport was building on the London Olympics ‘legacy’ well before the 2012 summer of sport. When everyone was talking about legacy we were doing it!

The charity’s aim is to make use of sports grounds and facilities belonging to catholic schools and colleges across the country with spare capacity to offer. These are being organised to provide opportunities for young people, who have no access to existing clubs or teams, to channel their energies into constructive, healthy sporting activities, thereby improving their own lives and performance and helping others to achieve their potential.

The dream is to generate as many new sports facilities as possible so that young people can get off the streets and play a sport – ‘from gangs to clubs’.

JP2F4S to date helps support 15 sports clubs (the first JP2F4S club opened nine months after the charity’s launch in October 2011) – two London examples are set out below to show the influence the organisation has already had:

The Sports Squared initiative at Sion Manning offers football to girls and primary school children; dance for primary and secondary school girls and basketball to the VI Formers at St Charles VI Form College.

At Cardinal Wiseman 50 students- 30 boys and 20 girls – are trained by coaches from Brentford Football Club which has just won the Award as Community Football Club of the Year 2014.  Assemblies have been delivered in the schools as the Foundation seeks to integrate the 12 virtues of JP2 into the lives of the children.

Article Source: Independent Catholic News 


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